Protecting an Idea Is Easy, Selling an Idea Is Hard

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The concepts I licensed when I began freelancing were quite simple. Before I broke out by myself, I’d opened a novelty gift store and worked in a toy startup, so initially, I stuck to what I knew. Whenever a company in those industries liked certainly one of my ideas, they decided to pay me a small percentage of every unit that sold in exchange for the best to create it.

protecting an idea

It was all pretty straightforward. I’m talking plush characters and funny puns, like a plastic dart by having an arrow that read “I’m stuck for you.” Intellectual property would be a non-starter. We never even discussed it.

But one day, I came up with a concept I figured might be big. I’d recently find out about how labels on prescription medication bottles neglect to provide just as much information because they should. There just wasn’t enough room. Under and overdosing occurred consequently.

“What if the label rotated?” I asked myself. Soon after that thought, I designed a sample of the rotating label inside my local Kinko’s on the copy machine. I mailed the sample off to a sizable pharmaceutical company. After I walked into Walmart a few days later and took in the number of cylindrical containers there were, my head began to spin. They might all take advantage of my label!

When the company told me it was interested, I grew fearful for the first time. My contact there is curious: Did I’ve got a patent? I hadn’t considered patents until then. After I began reading about intellectual property, my chest tightened. It sounded confusing. I grew more afraid. Basically didn’t patent my idea as quickly as possible, I thought, I’d never be compensated for it. Like everyone else, I let fear dominate.

Fear of through an idea stolen is one thing all creative people share. Same with the fear of losing out financially. But I need to make something clear. There are more severe problems headed your way if you wish to make it being an entrepreneur.

Is the idea marketable? Can it be manufactured at a competitive price? Answering these questions is really a lot more fundamental than declaring intellectual property protection.

John Ferrell, my patent attorney even today, provided some remarkable business advice when I became his new client. He explained, “Steve, don’t forget: Protecting a concept is simple. It’s selling a concept that’s hard.”

He couldn’t have been more right. Successfully marketing a concept is a lot more difficult than inventing and “protecting” one. The hundreds of thousands of patented ideas that never make it to market every year are testament to that.

You can learn how to venture your idea or license it. That details are out there waiting for you to grab it. But at the end of the day, if your idea is unwanted, your time and efforts will have been for nothing. So don’t even think of rushing to file for a patent. Instead, focus on how you’re going to test your idea.

Is crowdfunding potentially viable? How about presenting the concept to retailers or reaching out to potential licensees for their thoughts? How warm would be the waters? You should know in case your idea has potential. The only method to do that is to get relevant feedback from people who might actually buy it.

Am I a patent holder? Absolutely. I’ve nearly 20 patents to my name. But I’ve only ever attempted to patent one idea my big idea. I didn’t think it might be worth to do so with any one of my other ideas. Only this one was ever large enough to warrant this kind of investment.

I regularly meet people who equate being an inventor by having a patent. That’s fine, but I’ve never aspired to become a patent holder. I wish to see my ideas in the market. I wish to support my family by benefiting from them. So appreciate the fantastic advice, John!

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